College Admissions Scandal: Prosecutor Says Lori Loughlin Could Serve Way More Prison Time Than Felicity Huffman

Felicity Huffman reported to prison on October 15 to begin her two-week sentence for her role in the wide-ranging college admissions scandal. The Desperate Housewives actress, who pleaded guilty to fraud in May, will serve her time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. 

Felicity Huffman and William H Macy
Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy arrive at court in Boston on Sept. 13, 2019. | David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While Huffman was surrendering to authorities, another high-profile defendant in the case was squeezing in a workout. Full House star Lori Loughlin was spotted headed to a yoga studio in Los Angeles, her face hidden behind sunglasses and a visor. 

While Loughlin — who allegedly paid $500,000 to ensure her two daughters were admitted to the University of Southern California — is currently free, she could eventually find herself behind bars, possibly for a much longer time than Huffman, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the cases warned. 

Why Felicity Huffman will only serve two weeks in prison 

During an appearance on Boston’s WCVB show On the Record on October 6, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling discussed Operation Varsity Blues. He explained why Huffman received a relatively light sentence for her high-profile crime. 

“Ms. Huffman was probably the least culpable of the defendants who we’ve charged in that case,” Lelling said. “One of the things we look to is how much money was involved. She spent about $15,000 to have her daughter get a fake SAT score. But there were a few things working in her favor. She took responsibility almost immediately. She was contrite, did not try to minimize her conduct. I think she handled it in a very classy way.”

Though prosecutors had asked that Huffman serve one month in prison, the judge handed down a 14-day sentence. Lelling called that punishment “reasonable.”  

Lori Loughlin took a different approach 

Lori Loughlin leaving court
Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, right, leave court in Boston on Aug. 27, 2019. | John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While Huffman swiftly accepted responsibility for her actions, Loughlin took a different approach. She and her husband Mossimo Giannulli rejected a plea deal that would have reportedly come with a 2½-year prison sentence for both. Instead, the couple are fighting the fraud and money laundering charges. If found guilty, they could each spend up to 20 years in prison. 

While Loughlin’s case is ongoing, Lelling said that prosecutors would seek a longer sentence than the one Huffman received if she is convicted. 

“If she’s convicted, I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets by saying that we would probably ask for a higher sentence for her than we did for Felicity Huffman. I can’t tell you exactly what that would be,” Lelling said. He went on to say that Loughlin could receive a lighter sentence if the case was resolved before going to trial. 

Sending a message to parents 

Andrew Lelling
U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling | Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Though Huffman received a short sentence for her role in the Varsity Blues scandal, Lelling said he hoped her treatment would send a message to other parents. 

“If people take responsibility for their conduct, and they take responsibility for their conduct early on, it will probably go better for them,” he said,

He added that the actress’s sentence “sent a clear message to other parents involved that if you’re convicted of the offense, you’re going to go to prison for some amount of time. Because the least culpable defendant who took responsibility right away? Even she got prison.”